Greene's 250th K places him in elite group

June 2nd, 2023

BOSTON -- followed a strong outing last week with a dominant start on Thursday in which he reached a career milestone.

In the series finale against the Red Sox, Greene recorded eight strikeouts over six innings, giving up one run on two hits and three walks in the Reds’ 8-2 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. The right-hander notched his 250th career strikeout with his four-pitch punchout of Connor Wong in the third, making him the fourth-fastest pitcher by innings (184) to reach the milestone as a starter since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893, per Elias Sports Bureau.

“Definitely going on the right track,” Greene said. “Just continuing to stay locked in, stay present in the moment and never get satisfied. So I feel like I’ve done a good job with that. Players have been good behind me, I’ve loved throwing to Curt [Casali] the last couple [games]. It’s been good chemistry going back and forth.”

“He’s a super impressive guy,” Casali said ahead of the finale. “For being 23 years old and kind of getting jousted into the face-of-the-franchise type position. That’s a lot to handle for some people and I think he’s done a really nice job of that.”

Greene opened the bottom half of the first with a 96.1 mph fastball inside to lefty Alex Verdugo. Boston stacked its lineup with six lefties against the hard-throwing right-hander despite Greene’s reverse splits. In 124 plate appearances entering Thursday, right-handed batters hit .292 off Greene, compared to left-handers hitting .208. 

Verdugo went down swinging on four pitches, and lefty slugger Rafael Devers whiffed on a 98.7 mph fastball at the top of the zone before Greene got Justin Turner to strike out the side. Left-hander Triston Casas worked a nine-pitch at-bat with two outs in the second, but Greene got him to fly out on a 100 mph fastball.

Greene favored his fastball (69 pitches) and slider (36), mixing in four changeups, a pitch that Greene has been working to get more comfortable with. All three of Greene’s pitches were down on Thursday, most notably his changeup, which averaged 2.1 mph slower than usual.

“I think it was a pitch that kept guys honest tonight,” Greene said. “By no means was it an out pitch or a high-contact pitch, but I think it kept the guys honest and I was able to mix it in when I needed to.”

Greene topped out at 100.3 mph and averaged 98.1 on his fastball. Greene first hit 100 with a 100.2 mph fastball down and in that Casas fouled off, finishing his night with four pitches at 100 mph or higher (100.3, 100.2, 100.1, 100).

“Not many people can sit at 99-100 [mph] and keep that in the tank for as long as he does,” Casali said. “It’s just a really hard pitcher to square up, and I think he’s always developing his slider, he’s working on a changeup, just trying to be a more complete pitcher.”

Entering Thursday, the Red Sox had the fifth fewest strikeouts in the Majors with 438. Despite Greene being a strikeout pitcher, Casali said pregame that their game plan remains the same -- though he was “all for” early count contact plays like ground balls or fly balls, which accounted for nine of Greene’s last 10 outs.

“He’s that type of pitcher, but he’s also not only that type of pitcher, where he’s totally reliant on strikeouts,” manager David Bell said. “And I think the strikeouts will continue, he has a lot more left to get in his career, but he has other ways to get outs as well.”

Opposing Greene was Chris Sale, who exited in the fourth with left shoulder soreness. Sale shows some resemblance to the young Nick Lodolo: Two 6-foot-6 lefties with a similar delivery and a high arm angle. When talking about Greene, Casali felt it was too early to land on a direct comp for the young righty, but said he can see a little bit of Texas’ Jacob deGrom in Greene.

“Just in terms of like, ‘Here’s 100 and a high octane slider off of it,’” Casali said. “But I think [Greene is] unique. I think he’s got really good command of his fastball in all four quadrants of the zone at a high velocity, which is kind of unheard of. I don’t know if I’d comp him to anybody, I’d say he’s his own guy and hopefully someday people will want to be compared to him.”